NSFAS Latest News Today 18th December 2023: Funding for the Missing Middle Students and the Issue of Corruption- In a recent announcement, the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande revealed that the Cabinet has approved the next phase of a funding model that aims to support the “missing middle” students in South Africa. These students come from households that can afford tertiary education but do not meet the financial requirements to be funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This decision has been met with both enthusiasm and skepticism, as questions arise about the feasibility and potential impact on the existing NSFAS funding model.
In addition to addressing the funding for the missing middle students, Minister Nzimande has also emphasized the need to prioritize funding based on specific degrees, programs, and certificates that align with the country’s economic needs. This raises the question of whether funds should be allocated to all applicants approaching NSFAS or strategically prioritized based on the skill requirements of the country.
The Evolving Landscape of Skills
Jonathan Jansen, a Professor in Education at Stellenbosch University, challenges the notion that funding should be reliant on the subjects learners pass in high school or the courses they pursue in university or college. He argues that the constantly evolving technology landscape can change the skills required by the workforce. The emergence of artificial intelligence in recent years serves as an example of this phenomenon.
According to Jansen, it is impossible to predict exactly what skills the economy and industries will demand in the future. He explains, “None of us twenty, thirty years ago was speaking about artificial intelligence because we did not know that the world would be so radically transformed.” Therefore, allocating funds based on specific degrees or programs might not be the most effective approach.
Jansen also emphasizes the importance of humanities degrees and questions whether the goal in South Africa is to create a society solely focused on practical problem-solving skills or one that also values the foundational values inherent in human existence. He argues that both types of students should be funded, stating, “If an art history student showed up for NSFAS funding with an AI student, you have to fund both. The art history person takes care of our horrific destruction of human rights and humanity within three-and-a-half centuries, and that student must be part of a humanities department fund.”
Addressing Corruption within NSFAS
While the issue of funding allocation is being debated, it is important to address another critical concern within NSFAS – corruption. Professor Jansen contends that by efficiently dealing with corruption, ample funds could be secured to cover a comprehensive spectrum of academic pursuits by students.
Corruption within NSFAS has been a longstanding issue, with irregularities found in appointments and the direct allowance payment system. Tackling corruption and ensuring transparency in the allocation of funds would not only benefit the students but also restore trust in the system.
The recent approval of funding for the missing middle students in South Africa marks a significant step towards ensuring that more individuals have access to higher education. However, the feasibility and potential impact on the existing NSFAS funding model are subjects of ongoing debate.
Jonathan Jansen’s argument against allocating funds based on specific degrees or programs highlights the ever-changing landscape of skills and the importance of humanities degrees. He emphasizes the need to fund students from diverse academic backgrounds to address various societal challenges.
Addressing corruption within NSFAS is crucial to ensure that funds are allocated fairly and transparently. By tackling corruption, the system can provide support for a wide range of academic pursuits and restore confidence in the funding process.
As South Africa moves forward, it is essential to strike a balance between funding the missing middle students, prioritizing specific degrees aligned with economic needs, and addressing corruption. This multifaceted approach will contribute to a more inclusive and transparent higher education system that benefits all students.